West Africa Church Leaders denounce criminalization of Land in West Africa, and call on World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the industrialized countries to take their hands off African Land
In a three nation follow up events to the 2016 West African Caravan for Land, Water and Seeds, three Senior church leaders, including His Eminence Dr. Emmanuel Josiah UDOFIA, President of FECCIWA, Rev. Bamerbanona KADERA, Vice President of FECCIWA and Rev. Dr. Thomas Tolbert JALLAH, Jr., FECCIWA Secretary General, traveled to Ouagadougou, Freetown, and Monrovia on a pilgrimage for food justice handing the Convergence Book over to different church authorities and political leaders.
The pilgrim started from February 1st – 12th, 2017 began in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso with FECCIWA two member churches; the Reformed Evangelical Church in Burkina Faso, and the Church of God in Christ Mennonite from Burkina Faso where church Leaders denounced the criminalization of Land in West Africa, and called on World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the industrialized countries to take their hands off African Land.
The goal of the pilgrimage for food justice was the handing of the Convergence Book to Church leaders, political authorities and to build strategic alliance with West African CSOs in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Churches want to support West African Organizations and Social Movements for the building of a strong movement to affirm the rights of communities and promote family farming, based on peasant agroecology and food sovereignty during the 2017 Caravan.
West African Churches through its ecumenical food security advocacy campaign want to see the full implementation of the FAO Guidelines on the Right to Food, the Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure, the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, including their sub regional manifestation which is developed at ECOWAS, as well as the regulations on the risks of biotechnologies which are being developed at the UEMOA.
In achieving these goals, the delegation met with leaders of the Baptist Convention of Burkina Faso, the ACT Alliance National Forum in Burkina Faso, the Permanent Secretariat of NGOs (PSNGO) and the Peasant Confederation of Faso (PCF), the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food, the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors and the Christain Farmers Association of Liberia and Liberian Council of Churches.
In Freetown, the delegation met with Mrs. Ebun JAMES – DEKAM, General Secretary and Bishop John K. YAMBASU, President of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone. Also, the delegation met and discussed critical issues on the rapid expansion of Large Scale Land Acquisition in Sierra Leone with Mr. Francis R. SANKOH, The Chief Agricultural Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security. The delegation frowns on the Sierra Leone government condoning corporate malfeasance in Large Scale Acquisition in Sierra Leone in the name of development.
In light of the prevailing rapid and large – scale takeover of farmland in Sierra Leone, the delegation visited Makeni, three hours outside of Freetown and realized from the ADDAX Bioenergy Ethanol Sugar Cane Plantation in Tonkolili and Bombali Districts, the oil palm in Port Loko District and Pujehun District that the view of the government contradicts, as the work of Addax and other oil palm farming endanger poor food security, rural livelihoods, social cohesion and peace in post war Sierra Leone.
While in Makeni, the ecumenical delegation held consultative meetings with local church leaders and Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food on how the weaknesses of land tenure impact the livelihood, food security of rural peasants and local communities. However, our delegation was informed that Land reforms are presently ongoing and policy development which will now recognize the FAO Voluntary Guideline through the campaign of the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food.
The system of acquisition of land for agricultural investment in Liberia is the same as in Sierra Leone, where the Malaysian Palm Oil giant Sime Darby and Indonesian Gold Veloreum have entered long term land leases that undermine livelihoods of local communities. Local communities revealed that government have little or no consultation with them, and compensation issues were not adequately addressed. Many of the inhabitants, especially women, say have lost farms and food sources, livelihoods, as well as culturally sacred sites to sugar and oil plantations by multinational corporations.
In Liberia, West African Church Leaders believe that this is a total human rights conventions violation by both Sierra Leone and Liberia. “It is not fair to give away communal land for large scale plantations in the name for promoting economic recovery, but in reality undermines the country’s basic food security” says, the Rev. Dr. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, Jr. addressing crossed sections of media upon arrival at the Roberts International Airport outside of Monrovia. “It contradicts government policies on reducing poverty, and therefore deepens poverty in rural communities, this is evil in pushing people further into poverty, says, Dr. Jallah.
We see it as a total embarrassment, that employment in these plantations visited are insecure, with low paid, no health insurance, lack of environmental impact assessments, and does not contribute to sustainable income or livelihoods of the people of West Africa. There must be a forced ban on farm land leases to foreigners until adequate laws, regulations and policies are secured with the full involvement of all stakeholders in both countries.
Our delegation agreed with CSOs that multinational domination in the region must stop. The role of Transnational corporations are harmful factors that reinforce existing unequal power structures at national and local levels, contributing to further marginalization of disadvantaged population groups, such as women, youth and children.